Ioneer’s Rhyolite Ridge project in Nevada, USA, has advanced into the final stage of federal permitting with the decision by the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to publish a Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register.

Last year, the company secured the two other key permits required to commence construction on Rhyolite Ridge: a state-based Air Quality Permit and a state-based Water Pollution permit.

And now they have achieved another major milestone toward the completion of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and approval of the project’s plan of operations – which is the foundational permitting document that will become the basis for compliance during operations and closure.

“We understand the Rhyolite Ridge Project is the first lithium project to be issued a Notice of Intent under the Biden administration,” Ioneer (ASX:INR) executive chairman James Calaway said.

“We see this as a significant step toward ensuring a strong domestic supply of critical minerals and strategic materials necessary for development of a domestic battery supply chain essential to the electrification of transportation in the US.”

Securing the US supply chain

“Our project is uniquely positioned in the US, and has been engineered to ensure a stable, long- term, environmentally sustainable source of lithium,” MD Bernard Rowe said.

“The project is expected to produce sufficient lithium to allow for the manufacture of approximately 400,000 electric vehicles per year over many decades.

“In delivering this world-class project, Ioneer will help the US create a domestic supply of lithium for auto manufacturers, quadrupling the current domestic supply, critical to meeting the climate goals established by the Biden administration, while also positively impacting the Nevada economy by creating 400-500 construction jobs and 250-300 operating jobs to help diversify the Nevada economy.”

Public comment and review phase

Notably, in the latest revised plan submitted to the BLM in July 2022, there are no project-related direct impacts to any of the subpopulations of Tiehm’s buckwheat – however BLM cannot approve the plan until an environmental review is completed under NEPA.

Publication of the NOI marks the beginning of that process, starting a public comment period on the scope of the environmental review.

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) contractor Stantec, the BLM, and other cooperating government agencies will use comments received during scoping and resource information gathered by Ioneer to prepare the EIS.

The plan will be updated to reflect the outcomes of the NEPA review before it is finalised.

Decision expected in Q1 2024

The NEPA process culminates in the BLM’s Record of Decision (ROD), which represents the Department of Interior’s final decision on Ioneer’s application for an approved Plan of Operations.

An approved plan will allow the company to commence construction of the Rhyolite Ridge Project.

The company’s current best estimate is that a ROD would be received in 1Q 2024, and once that happens, Ioneer will undertake further drilling activity at the southern extension of the ore body to optimise the revised plan and allow for mining to commence at the southern limits of the deposit.

The goal is to complete the drilling, optimise the mine plan and update capital and operating cost estimates before making a Final Investment Decision (FID), with first production targeted for 2026.




This article was developed in collaboration with Ioneer, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.


This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.